Paris, 2003. April or May or June, on a Sunday late afternoon. Having left my friend at the rail station, I came out of the metro to the sun after a weekend of rain. She was returning to London. I would return to Uganda the next day. She was just married, I was not married yet. For two days we had sat in various cafes, under various awnings, drinking wine and coffee and talking about everything as far back as boarding school, as far back as summers on the island and winters in New York. Coming out of the metro, I was fully tristesse, empty heart, sunken and lonely.
I would go to the Louvre, but I passed it instead, passed the glass pyramid and continued to the Tuileries Gardens and then kept walking along the Champs Elysees---under the most oxygen-drenched trees, past huge statues memorializing World War II or the Armenian genocide, the air crisp and cool, passing not many people strolling by and once an old man on a bench. The wet grass and flowers, and the Seine sparkly. I crossed a bridge past the Arc de Triomphe and returned, the mood, naturally, light by now. The everything better now. I had dinner in a cafe, I sat by myself as I had done for many years before in New York and elsewhere. I was reading a book, Black Dogs. There was a jazz band playing, and an older American couple sitting next to me, professors from a University, traveling in sneakers to cover much Parisian ground (they apologized, we laughed).
Then it was the next morning, and I took a train to Heathrow in London and flew back to Kampala that night. M. met me at the airport. The dogs jumped up on me when I returned to the house. It was humid and tropical and another world entirely. In a few months, I would be pregnant and married, and even happier. I haven't had dinner alone since.